Late August, The Fair Punishment Project released a report concerning Ohio’s death penalty titled “Prisoners on Ohio’s Execution List Defined by Intellectual Impairment, Mental Illness, Trauma, and Young Age”. As an initiative run through Harvard Law School, The Fair Punishment Project works for
a fair and accountable justice system. They address excessive punishments, and issues in the broken judicial system. This report is one of their newest reports addressing the unjust use of the death penalty throughout the United States.
The report starts off with some startling statistics: Out of the 26 men to be executed, at least 17 experienced serious childhood trauma, at least 6 appear to suffer from mental illness, and at least 11 have evidence of intellectual or cognitive impairment. The report does not just give statistics. Following the numbers are the narratives of these men’s backgrounds, which often heartbreaking and terrifying accounts of childhood abuse, trauma, and mental illness. As a call to action, the report cites the 8th Amendment, which states that the death penalty is only reserved to those that are extremely culpable. The men this report covers have impairments that do not meet this culpability requirement.
This report comes out in a time that Ohio Legislators have a say in this issue. House Bill 81 and Senate Bill 40 were introduced early this year in the Ohio State Legislature. These bills would abolish the death penalty for those who had a serious mental illness at the time of their crime. While this bill would not abolish the execution sentence for all of the people covered in this report, it is an important first step. Currently, HB 81 is in the Committee for Criminal Justice, and the SB 40 is in the Judiciary Committee.
You can call your state legislators to ask them to push this bill into the next legislative stage.
This report provides a critical information in our mission to completely abolish the death penalty in Ohio. These stories call into question the morality of executing people who suffer from psychological damage. The report provides a strong case that this action is immoral and unjust. Furthermore, most, if not all, of Ohio’s death row inmates suffer from a combination of mental illness, childhood trauma, or they were very young when they committed their crime. The conclusion comes then, that the death penalty in Ohio is an unjust system that does not seek to give these people the help they need, but rather punishes them to an immoral degree.